It looks something like a third-wave coffee shop, with stenciled concrete floors, wood fixtures, and large, glass windows. But at 124,000 square feet, it dwarfs any Blue Bottle or La Colombe you know.
This is the new Target. It’s one-half boutique retail store. One-half grab-‘n’-go warehouse. And it may be just the thing to keep big-box stores relevant in the age of Amazon.
In October, Target will launch its first “next-generation store design” in a suburb 35 miles outside of Houston. In contrast to its previously announced small-format stores, which were designed to squeeze into tight urban niches, this new model is the large-format Target of the future—the remake of the Target that we all know. And over the next two years, the company will spend billions updating 600 stores nationwide to mirror this model.
Aside from the new barista-approved fit and finish, Target is getting a two-sided makeover that literally breaks the store down into two different doors customers can walk through. From one entrance, Target will appeal to slow shoppers, by creating a more browsable retail experience. Walking through new, curved aisles rather than a grid that starts at the door, customers will see gleaming merchandise tables that look straight out of Nordstrom or Macy’s. The key word here is “unexpected,” as Target hopes you will be surprised by the apparel and home goods you discover in a novel, free-form shopping experience.
From the other entrance, Target is appeasing the on-demand economy. It will offer a quick way to grab your online order or a bottle of wine for dinner. While this door features a few merchandise tables, too, you’ll be able to beeline to customer service and pickup (which is a space highlighted in eye-drawing, Target red), or reach the groceries and wine with minimal fuss.
And for people who don’t even want to set foot inside the store, this side of Target will feature dedicated spots to park where employees will bring your online orders out to you.
Both plays are right on target, ahem, with the biggest retail trends of today: Namely, we’re becoming shoppers of extremes—of convenience or experience. Amazon has turned shopping into a world of free Prime two-day shipping, and Target is countering by allowing suburbanites to pick up groceries from what is essentially a very convenient warehouse without ever leaving their car. But at the same time, physical spaces can still offer us novelty and entertainment—and a unique connection with goods and services that can’t translate through an app or web page (which is why even Amazon is developing brick-and-mortar locations). So Target is doubling down on slow trends, too, with its curvy maze of displays.
Will it work? Truthfully, we’ll know pretty soon. Target’s profits can vary in tenths of a percent from quarter to quarter. And if the Houston store doesn’t move the needle in the right direction, you can bet that serious changes will be made before it scales across the country.